Do Men Really Love Bitches? Depends On Your Definition of the Word

I stepped into Off Broadway, a fabulous consignment shop on New York City's Upper West Side, to run a quick errand. As I was leaving the boutique, an older woman behind the counter told me, “Have a nice day. Stay young and beautiful.” "Thank you," I responded. The pleasantries, then, took an unusual turn.

“And I have a word of advice for you,” she said, leaning over the counter. “Be mean to men. Men like bitches.” I nodded politely. “Older women won’t tell you this, because no one told them or because they don’t want it to be true, but I swear to you: do not treat men well.” My polite nodding became more vigorous and enthusiastic as I absorbed what she was saying and it started to resonate. “You’re young and beautiful, but they won’t like you if you’re nice.”

The woman made some good points, as depressing as they were, in my experience, true. The phenomenon is not unusual: the very moment I become interested in men and show a certain level of kindness and warmth, a natural way of expressing affection, they tend to withdraw or become distant. Conversely, when I decide that I am no longer interested in certain men — or that I was never really interested at all — I am transformed into an irresistible, unattainable goddess in their eyes.

Should I treat guys I'm interested in like they're guys I'm not interested in? And even if this is an effective strategy, is it not just a huge waste of time and emotional energy?

I asked Neely Steinberg, a dating coach and author of Skin in the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love, what she thought about this notion of being mean to men as a strategy. “That’s absurd,” she said. “Men who don’t have self-respect for themselves might gravitate towards women who are mean to them. Whole, grounded men don’t like bitches, but I suppose it depends on how you define the term bitch.”

Steinberg mentioned the wildly successful book Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov, but notes that the use of “bitch” in the book has less to do with being mean. “The author defines bitch in a different way,” she says. “Men like women who have self-respect and don’t allow someone to walk all over them.” OK, sounds good so far.

Argov, who also wrote the follow-up Why Men Marry Bitches defines a bitch as a woman who is confident, secure, and independent. (BTW: If this isn’t proof that the English language has failed us — that “bitch” is the only word we can scrounge up for an empowered woman — then I don’t know what is). Argov speaks with many men about what they find attractive in women. One man is quoted as saying the following:

A woman shouldn't say, 'You don't call me enough,' or, 'You never tell me you love me.' As a woman, your best asset is to be unpredictable. He should never be able to figure you out. When he can always predict what you are going to do next, you've lost him as a long-term partner. He'll look for someone else whom he can't understand or control.

Another man says this:

Men are competitive. When he buys a car that is a limited-edition model, he feels like he has something special. Guys in the street who race cars usually race for pink slips, because they want to win, conquer and take the other vehicle. That carries over to women. A woman who is easy won't scratch his competitive itch. When she stops expressing her opinion and starts agreeing with everything he says, that's usually when a man starts to feel bored.

I find this whole discussion pretty reprehensible. Of course, women should be confident, and secure, and independent. But to urge women to value these traits because it makes them more attractive to men, well, that’s backwards. It doesn’t even make logical sense — being “independent” with the end goal of snatching a guy seems to me like the opposite of independence.

If you’re looking for a guy who needs women to be like “a limited-edition model” car, or an object “to win” and “conquer,” please, by all means spend your mental energy maintaining a façade of elusiveness and disinterest and coyness and unpredictability.

Me? I’m going to continue valuing confidence and self-worth as an end in itself, not a means for luring in basic guys who need me to play some weird game because they're bored and insecure. I’m a bitch, no doubt — for no one but myself.

Image: Paramount Pictures